When was the last time you cracked open a lobster claw, dipped it in a little hot, melted butter and tasted that sweet summer New England treat? I'm guessing it wasn't recent enough.
iLobster, a new iphone app built by Ben Greeley of Waterville, Maine, is a fun, new way to find, order and enjoy fresh lobster from the state of Maine. This app is for beginners and experts alike to learn how to get the most out of your lobster dinner, locate nearby restaurants and lobster pounds, and order the freshest Maine lobster available straight to your door by local suppliers such as Shiny Maine Lobster.*
This app comes at a time when the Maine lobster industry needs it most. Despite their meticulous conservation efforts, the lobstering industry has taken a turn for the worst with rising costs and diminishing financial returns. While it may be an indirect contribution, apps like iLobster serve as a reminder that lobster isn't just for special occasions and anyone can order this affordable treat. In fact, having a few lobsters shipped directly to your doorstep, serving them up with some fresh corn and salads costs about the same as going out to a restaurant, but is a much more fun experience. And what a great way to support a local industry that is a quintessential part of American, New England culture.
We caught up with Ben to ask him a few questions about his experience conceiving of the idea and building the actual application.
Is this your first iPhone app?
No, the first iPhone app I developed was made for the college that I work for. The app was geared towards prospective students and getting content such as stories, photos, video and blogs on their iPhones. This is, however, the first iPhone app I have developed for my own purposes.
What prompted you to build iLobster?
Living in Maine, enjoying lobster is a way of life and even though people love eating lobster, they don't necessarily remember how to crack it open. I was sitting around and watching my family trying to eat lobster at a lobster dinner and none of them knew what they were doing. It was a little eye-opening. If people in Maine—who were raised eating lobster—didn’t know how to crack and harvest meat from a lobster shell, others needed help too. That's when I got the idea of an iPhone app that people can use on the go and have it be an all-in-one stop for ordering lobster, finding lobster restaurants, and learning how to crack open lobster. I partnered with illustrator, Robert P. Hernandez, who took care of the design while I was able to focus on the programming of the app.
What has the response been so far?
So far the response has been positive, although we have yet to begin getting the word out about iLobster. We are planning on starting the marketing phase at a few larger food events in Maine such as the Maine Lobster festival and getting the word out to lobster vendors, so we hope to get more of a response.
What plans do you have for it for the future?
We are hoping to get feedback from users now that the initial version of iLobster has been launched and determine which extra features to add. We conscientiously held off from implementing all of the ideas we had for the initial app, because we wanted to put it up and see what the public reaction was. There are plans to add more multimedia and ways to share information with linking with social media in some capacity. We also have plans to eventually develop an Android version of the app to test out that growing app market. I also hope the app will spawn more business for Maine lobstermen by giving them a new venue to sell their lobster on.
Do you plan to build other iPhone or mobile apps in the future?
Most definitely. Since developing iLobster, my mind has been constantly thinking about what else would be cool and useful to do with apps and I'm definitely looking forward to the future. Now that I've begun developing iPhone apps, I'd like to try to expand to the Android and even Blackberry markets if it seems an app would benefit being on those devices.
There are lots of people out there who want to build mobile apps. What advice do you have for them? Were there any surprises along the way or lessons learned?
I personally learn by doing, so for people looking to get started developing mobile apps I'd recommend coming up with an idea for a small project that you are excited about and then use it as an excuse to get started on your app. Also, don't be afraid to fail. Even if the app you create isn't overly successful, you will have learned what works and what doesn't for future projects.
*For full disclosure, Shiny Maine Lobster is a joint venture between my company, Shiny Heart Ventures and my parents who manage a small lobster business in southern Maine. Shiny Maine Lobster is featured in the iLobster app.